IT’S not often that I entertain my young nephews.
Mainly because they live 230 miles away but also because whenever they visit and the population of the house doubles I seem to be permanently welded to the kitchen sink or the cooker.
But by a not entirely happy set of circumstances over Easter I was afforded the rare opportunity to take them out for the afternoon. Their father had gone with Firstborn and The Man-in-Charge to partake of the manly pursuit of go-karting; while their mum, poor soul, wasn’t feeling well and needed a rest.
“We’ll take them to the aquarium,’’ said I to Secondborn, who was also in loco parentis. “We need some new fish and they’ll like the piranhas.’’ Which they did.
But, in fact, they were mostly taken with a large and slightly deformed fish that appeared to have two mouths, one inside the other. “Surely that’s not right,’’ said Secondborn, as we goggled at it.
The nephews moved on to peruse the Siamese fighting fish because boys like such things.
“We used to have one of those,’’ I explained, pointing to a male. “I called him ‘His Nibs’.’’
“Did he fight?’’ asked Elder Nephew, who seemed disappointed when I told him that they only fight when put in a tank with another male.
Encouraged by the success of our visit to the aquarium I suggested that we stop off to look around the botanical gardens at the local park. “It’s got banana plants and miniature quail,’’ said I.
“I don’t want to see the quails,’’ wailed Elder Nephew.
“I do,’’ countered Younger Nephew, although I’m not sure that either of them had the first idea of what a quail actually is.
“You’re not really selling this. Are you?’’ said The Girl.
“You should have told them about the plastic dinosaur, not the quail,’’ said the Man-in-Charge later.
But the moment was lost and Secondborn suggested we go home to play Rapidough (like Pictionary but using Playdough). She figured it would keep them quiet.
“I don’t want to play Rapidough,’’ said Younger Nephew.
“I do,’’ retorted Elder Nephew.
“It will be fun,’’ said The Girl.
Half an hour later we’d created everything from fingernails to hammocks out of Dayglo dough. Younger Nephew had been pacified with copious quantities of chopped up apple. “I want to do something physical now,’’ said Younger Nephew, with a sigh, as if sitting nicely at the table had just been too much for him.
“I don’t,’’ said Elder Nephew.
The Girl, who has endless patience, took them outside into the garden, where they ran around shouting and ringing the doorbell. She wore an indulgent expression, which she later said was actually exhaustion.
A few minutes later my sister-in-law appeared, a little sleep befuddled. Not long after, the men arrived back home, pumped up with high-speed testosterone and karting stories.
“What have you been doing?’’ asked the Man-in-Charge, who was feeling particularly triumphant, having won the tournament.
“Oh, buying fish and not visiting quail. That sort of thing. Remembering what it was like to have children, not teenagers,’’ I replied.
And, I thought to myself, discovering that I have a daughter who is patient, kind and much better than I at entertaining the young.